Monday, July 31, 2006

Quickie - Soooo tie-tie

Well, I did make it back from the L&B Crazy Fun Nuptials(TM) this morning and made it into work for a half day of what may have been the least productive afternoon ever.

Was dancing and cavorting and playing and laughing and driving until well past my usual bedtime on both Saturday and Sunday...

The end result? I'm about as tired as...well...this.

Exciting stories 2-morrow when I've rested up.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Quickie - Exactly what I was hoping for...

You Are Gonzo the Great

"Is something burning in here? Oh, it's just me."
You're a total nutball who will do anything for attention.
The first to take a dare, you'll pull almost any stunt.
You're one weird looking creature, but your chickens don't mind!

16 days of gridlock

That's it – the USOC is officially on my mud list. Yesterday they announced that the list of cities they are considering as the US bid for the 2016 Olympics has been reduced to three: Los Angeles, San Francisco, and – god forbid – Chicago. Up until this point I had pretty much dismissed talk of chi-town scoring the games as a pipe dream of the mayor's, a blatant attempt to distract the media and residents from all his recent scandals*. But now that damn USOC has practically handed the bid to Chicago – so now I'm officially getting nervous.

Why, you ask? Aren't the other two cities just as likely to be the bid as Chicago? Perhaps, but I think the reasons tey wouldn't get the games are much higher than the reasons they would. Los Angeles for example has already held the games twice - including once in the last 25 years. Say whatever you want, but I cannot believe that the IOC would pick to have a third timer before ever giving the games to Africa or South America – politically, it's just the wrong thing to do. San Francisco is beautiful, and populated with intelligent, good-looking people and great weather, but I'm not sure it has the infrastructure to hold something that big for that long. And besides, the costs of staging anything in SF are much higher. Finally, both SF and LA are in California, right on a fault line. Who knows if either city will still be standing** in 10 years?

So that leaves my little town as the most likely candidate. And honestly, I'm not looking forward to it. Not just the years of construction and road work that would tie up traffic for years, but also for the event itself. 16 days of not being able to get a reservation anywhere, traffic misery, el trains packed with tourists all asking how to get to Al Capone's house, and absolutely no place to park. Not to mention all the terrorist attacks that would no doubt be attempted. Thanks for the offer, but no thanks.

My only hope lies in the fact that we don't have a stadium big enough to hold the Opening and Closing ceremonies. But if they somehow find a way around that, I'll be seriously considering renting out my condo and getting out of town.

Or...maybe I'll get tickets to the rhythmic gymnastics competition. Or baseball at Wrigley Field. But that's it! After all I do have my principles.

Well...maybe women's beach volleyball...

* Whether related to sketchy hiring practices or his failure to investigate allegtions of torture in the Chicago Police Department that were recently found to be true.
** Heck the entire state may slide into the ocean by then, and residents of Lake Tahoe might be enjoying their new oceanfront property

Thursday, July 27, 2006

More on MySpace

Yesterday's comment discussion about the subtleties of MySpace only reinforced my intent to avoid it altogether. Frankly, I found some of the comments more amusing – particularly the complaints from my lady readers about receiving all sorts of friend requests that seemed to be intended more for Christina Aguilera* than them personally.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say what you all know – it's because you are girls. All you have to do is select “female” or use your first name somewhere in your profile and you guarantee yourself tons of traffic and the never-ending stream of internet come-ons** until you grow tired of the whole thing, unplug and move to Pennsylvania to join the Amish. Men, on the other hand, need to be the pursuers. So they roam through all the new profiles in their hemisphere, searching for new people with reasonably attractive pictures and sending short, typically ridiculously asinine emails and request to be added as a friend.

I'm not exactly sure what the logic is behind this. I've been a guy for almost all of my entire life*** and I will not pretend to understand why some of us believe that sending dirty emails to complete strangers will result in them flying 2500 miles for a quickie in the Holiday Inn at the edge of town. But they believe anyway...who says faith is dead amongst the techno-geeks?

In any event, this is yet another reason not to get involved in MySpace – it's too much work to actually look for my friends and I'm not interested in sending out pervy emails to strangers – these days I only send them to people I know.

Like your mom.

* Read: Drrrty
** e.g. “Hey babe, log on here often?”, “Can I buy you some bandwidth?”, “Was your daddy an administrator? Because he stole Linux kernels and put them in your eyes...”
*** Excepting the first few weeks post-conception, when I was a “questioning” zygote – not sure whether I wanted to be a male or female. Of course, it was just a phase. One I transitioned out of eventually and one that I'm sure we all went through when we were that age. I also experimented with heroin back then, but not for long because I didn't have veins to tap, arms to inject it, or a syringe.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

What do you call it if you don't *have* a space?

Recently, the day I'd been dreading for months finally arrived - I received my first invitation to join MySpace. Now, I know that the person who invited me has very good reasons for having a MySpace page – it's great for publicity and a good way to market one's work given my friend's line of work. But for regular people like me I fail to see what the point of it is.

Full disclosure, like all the other people who listened to the piece on All Things Considered, I joined Friendster back when it was still “new” and “hip”. And like most of us I marvelled as my social network blossomed into the thousands, amazed at how I was linked to people I already knew via mutual friends and friends-of-friends. It was an opportunity to play six degrees of Kevin Bacon but with ourselves as the main character – the social nexus of society. And I know that I don't need to tell you, dear reader, that being the nexus of one's circle of friends makes a guy feel pretty powerful indeed...

But then the number of people on Friendster started to taper off. Copycat sites started popping up, and my network stopped growing. I started accepting friendster requests from complete strangers who invited me purely by accident. It wasn't the same. That's when it hit me – these social networking sites are pointless for regular people. Sure, bands can use them to market themselves and distribute their music, movie studios can use them to generate “buzz” about upcoming blockbusters. But unless you've got something to sell, they strike me as the lazy person's way to maintain social ties.

Instead of actually working to keep in touch with friends by making phone calls and writing letters or emails to each person one-by-one, you simply go to one place, update the site with the same information and then expect all your friends to come to you – thus essentially transferring the responsibility of maintaining the friendship from you to them. If they don't visit your page, then it's their fault that you've lost touch. “Hey, don't blame me” they say, “I've got a MySpace page, it's not like it's hard to keep in touch with me”.

But I'm troubled a little by this opinion of mine. Does this make me a luddite? I've always considered myself fairly cutting-edge* when it comes to technology and the latest techno-geek gadgetry. And now my inner geek is starting to feel threatened by my lack of participation. This is the sort of self-doubt that makes people seriously consider cybernetic implants and attending conventions where people dress up like Spock or stormtroopers – but that seems like simple over-compensation.

So I don't think I'll ever end up with a MySpace. Thankfully, they seem to have been going all corporate since getting purchased by Rupert Murdoch, so maybe their coolness factor will disappear under a wave of corporate tie-ins and banner ads. And then maybe people will start actually writing letters again.

* If not bleeding edge

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Quickie - Somewhere, Mr Rogers is crying

Oh for the love of God. WTTW, my local public television station that I love dearly, is adding Mancow as a "commentator" to it's nightly news and public affairs show. Apparently, they view this as a "neat" way to draw a new audience with a different demographic.

What, they couldn't get broadcasting rights for WWE RAW? Spike TV had already snapped up all the reruns of crazy Japanese television game/prank shows? The internet already has all the porn?

You'd better believe that WTTW is going to hear about this from yours truly...I have connections.

I always thought it was just a newspaper for The Man

For some reason the Wall Street Journal is on a nutrition kick lately. Over the last week or so I've been noticing an increasing number of articles where the central theme appears to be “Hey fatass! Stop eating so much crap!” There was an article on the importance of hi-fiber foods a few days ago, and today I'm hit with both the need to eat more fruits and vegetables as well as the dangers of high sodium intake. I'm also remembering an article on portion control recently, but honestly I can't recall whether I read that in the Journal or somewhere else.

Since when did the Wall Street Journal start becoming such an expert on medical news anyway? Has it always been a medical publication and I just didn't know? I mean, it is the only “journal” publication that doesn't reference medicine in its name (e.g. New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association). And it was a broadsheet, too. Very clever, those Wall Street publishers. “First we'll convince everyone we're a business newspaper! It'll only take about 75 years or so. Then, we surprise them by gradually changing all our articles to medical stories and within a couple years – all our readers will be doctors!”. I still don't get why this would be a good thing. But I'm not part of their coterie of editors.

Anyway, fine, fine, fine. I've been trying to eat at least two servings* of fruits and veggies every day. And I think I've now irritated the cafeteria staff so much with my incessant requests for “half portions” of whatever they are serving that they give me dirty looks when I approach the counter. They think I'm just being cheap, but I think the portions they dish up with shovels are slightly more than what is shown on their FDA nutrition info they post. And I really don't need 8500 calories just for lunch thank you.

But as I sat here today munching on my low-fat** jambalaya, mixed vegetables, and orange, I read through these articles and was suddenly struck by the realization that lions don't need to worry about eating enough blueberries to up their levels of anthocyanins in order to maximize the effectiveness of their vitamin C intake. Why is that? Why can animals live their entire lives eating a single food*** with apparently no harm or side affect? Heck, We seem to get along perfectly well for a good portion of our youth living on nothing but breast milk. Frankly, this whole thing smacks of the powerful influence of the secretive fruit-and-vegetable lobby. Darn them and their meddling “fiber is good for your colon!” agenda convincing me to go for the orange instead of cookies for dessert today.

Sigh...someday maybe someone will invent the whole grain Twinkie...

* Don't ask me – I have no idea what a “serving” is either. It would be better to say I try to eat two types instead
** Allegedly. Of course the sodium level probably would have the WSJ's nutrition editors in a tizzy
*** Lions = meat; pandas = bamboo; koalas = eucalyptus leaves; toucans = Froot Loops; Wile E. Coyotes = a steady diet of failure and bodily injury.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Learning to live with disappointment

I've decided that I need my weekends to be increased by 50%. This past weekend was my last weekend of “nothing planned” for probably about a month* so I celebrated by blowing most of it. Thankfully, I had dinner plans with friends on Saturday**. That was fun and then on Sunday the GF invited me to go see a play that some friends of hers were in on Saturday afternoon. They play itself was not very good, but afterwards we went over to the Summerfest in Wicker Park for some good tunes and bad food. As it turns out, the fest was much larger than last year, but most of it was art and crafts and cheap Louis Vitton knockoffs. Mercifully, there was one tent selling funnel cakes, and corn dogs and cheese fries. At least I was able to get something that will contribute to my eventual early death for dinner.

Afterwards, having spent most of the weekend engaged in activities, we decided to just veg and rent movies. So we headed over to Blockbuster on the way home to look over the options. First, I need to mention that the video stores are full of crap these days. No wonder nobody goes to the movies anymore.

For example - Oh Kal Penn. You made such a big splash on the US domestic movie scene when you broke in with your starring role in Van Wilder. After following it up with your star turn in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, I was confident you would go onto bigger and better things. But as the GF and I browsed through the offering at Blockbuster, we were both disappointed that you seem to not only be choosing the same sorts of roles in the same sorts of movies – but you're also using the same facial expression on the cover art for each (see here and here). Apparently, this poor guy's been relegated not only to being the new token Indian guy*** in the domestic film market but to being the “Indian Guy Who Looks Seriously Disturbed (If Not Disgusted) By Whatever He's Supposed to Be Looking At”.

We ended up walking about with two movies that we were both only mildly ambivalent about, and only one of which we actually finished. I was kind of excited about The Aristocrats because it was supposed to be “unspeakably obscene language” and it would be “rolling on the floor funny”. It was neither. Yes, it was mildly amusing to watch Bob Saget do the joke, and the mime was mildly amusing. But for the most part it was more academic on the nature of humor amongst comedians than a laugh-out-loud retelling of the joke itself. It was interesting from a “theory of humor” perspective, but not inherently funny.

I almost wish we would have gotten King Kong instead...

* Wedding this weekend in Ann Arbor with Spice and J.Po, Mom in town next weekend, tentative dinner plans with friends the weekend after that, etc, etc, etc.
** Two sets of friends, too! I know, I'm such a bastard, scheduling two dinner dates with friends for the same night. But I hadn't seen one in months and the other's was a birthday party, so I felt obligated.
*** After all Ajay Naidu is pretty established at this point, and America needs fresh harmless token Indians.

Friday, July 21, 2006

We did see Ronnie Woo-Woo before the game though

On Wednesday of this week I attended my first Cubs game in the famous bleachers section of Wrigley Field. I had originally purchased a bunch of extra tickets because my cousins were in town, but when they had to leave early, I scrambled to find folks to come with me. I managed to find a couple friends who could come out, and was able to sell the two extra seats I had before the game.

Now, the bleachers has a bit of a reputation as being a crazy, loud, and very drunk collection of baseball rowdies. So, while that isn't typically my sort of crowd* I had been able to buy the tickets on the day they went on sale and I figured even without the cousins here I should try the bleachers out once – just to see what all the hullabaloo was about.

Things didn't start off very well though. By the time we had all arrived at the park** it was already the third inning, and so we trooped into the bleachers entrance***, immediately bought hot dogs, nachos, beer, and peanuts, and tried to find seats.

This was problem number one: the bleachers are general admission – so finding available space for four people together was going to take some engineering. This is partially because all the seats are bleacher seats – so they are benches instead of actual chairs. And naturally the 24” of seat space that the Cubs figure an average person will occuly when they determine seating capacity is nowhere near the amount of space occupied by an actual Chicagoan – as they are generally not only much fatter than that but because we are midwestern we adhere to pretty clearly-delineated rules about personal space. Miraculously however, we scored four seats right on the end of the second row, right between right and center field (see the picture right for the view from our seats).

As you may also observe in the picture, it was very hazy that evening. That was because of problem number two: it was eleventy-billion degrees out with a humidity of infinity. I don't think I've ever been so uncomfortable outdoors in my life. It got to the point where I was so miserable that I actually was pleased to get rained on for a few minutes around the 7th inning. Sadly, the rain didn't help much and didn't last long enough.

Finally, problem number three was that the bleachers are not nearly as fun as advertised. Part of this problem is in how they are overpriced. Tickets to the bleachers cost just as much as the club level seats, but you don't get waiters bringing you food, the beer man never comes, there are no seat backs or cup holders for the beer you do have, and the fascist guards down in front blocked my view of the game and kept telling folks to sit down “during regular play”****. Yes, there was some heckling of players and yes, a Cubs home run ball landed right next to me***** but in general the experience is not worth the money. Thank goodness I had good friends there to keep me more entertained than the game.

Next time, though, I'll take my seats in the Terrace Reserved section. At least then I don't have people telling me to sit down and stop cheering.

* While I am crazy, my loudness level isn't much above the minimum level acceptable.
** About a half-hour into the game, due to various unforseen delays on the parts of all four of us
*** Which is completely seperate from the rest of the ballpark entrances, no doubt to try and keep the rowdies away from all the Lincoln Park Trixies and Chads sitting in the terraces.
**** Apparently, it's a rule.
***** No, I didn't make a play for it. I could hear it hissing as it got close, so I knew it would hurt like heck to try and bare-hand. If I would have brought my glove though, I would perhaps have had a much more fun experience.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

A tape measure by any other name...is obviously for pussies

Working, as I do, in the world of business can be a soul-suffocating experience. While it probably won't kill you, you eventually find yourself ceasing to struggle against the storm of senseless silliness that flows from the marketing departments and/or your higher-ups. In my opinion, business-speak, with all its -isms and polysyllabic pseudonyms, it eventually going to be what allows the folks over in China who just make a better hammer to eventually conquer the world. But companies just keep on coming out with ridiculous new names for the same old product in an effort to make us all forget about that and just buy one more wrench to get them through the quarter.

There is no better example of this than a new line of tools that Stanley has recently launched called the “FatMax Xtreme” line. Don't even get me started on the overuse of the word “extreme”*. Anyway, the MBA in me can understand why they would want to use a name like this for their new line. Perhaps they want to broaden their appeal to Gens X and Y or specifically target the extreme sports-loving contractor demographic. But their mistake was in choosing which tools to include. According to the literature, the new FatMax Xtreme line includes screwdrivers, tape measures, a chalk line, a pry-bar/ hammer combination**, and some bubble levels.

Now, if you are the CEO of a tool company, and you have to make the call, are these the “extreme” tools you give this name to? How many people out there really have a desire for XTREME CHALK LINES! Nowhere Girl, are you feeling the need for some EXTREME LEVELING when you put up the new fence? WOOOOOOO!!!!

[Insert look of tired resignation here]

For the love of pete. I sure hope I can bite my tongue during my conference call with Stanley this afternoon.

* Including all its absurd variant spellings
** Named, ironically enough, the FUBAR. No doubt by some kid who has no idea what that word is an acronym for

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Next time you're late for a date, try this!

So before the cousins left town last night to head home, we met up at the original Pizzeria Uno downtown for dinner.

As they were walking up Michigan Avenue, they witnessed some guy walk right into traffic and get hit by a CTA bus. The impact caused the entire front windshield to crack up in the familiar spiderwebbing pattern. Obviously, this was a bit of a surprise, but even more of a surprise was that the guy proceeded to get up off the street, brush himself off, and try to getaway from the scene. The bus driver then got off the bus and chased him down to keep him from getting away completely*. They got him to sit down on the curb, but he appeared fine, if a bit disoriented. But the bus driver was a little worked up. He heard my cousin's boyfriend say “Wow! That guy just got hit by a bus!” and replied** “Hey! He ran out and hit me! I didn't hit nobody!”. Eventually, an ambulance came and took the guy away, but my cousins left the scene before the cops started looking for potential witness statements as they only had a short time before they had to leave town.

Of course, as I sat there munching my sausage, green peppers, and onion deep dish*** I couldn't help but devise ideas why this guy had shrugged off being hit by a bus and wanted to leave the scene. Obviously, my first thought was that he either had a warrant for his arrest or was high on some sort of controlled substance****. But then my imagination kicked in again, with XXX more interesting theories.

  1. The dude was a Terminator, sent from the future to find and kill Sarah Connor

  2. The dude had recently escaped from a top-secret military facility, where he had been undergoing secret experiments to create a super soldier. After tracking down the old man who used to run the program, he had just discovered that the program was designed to make him indestructible. Upon learning this, obviously one would want to know whether it is true, and what better way to do so than to see if you can survive being hit by bus

  3. The dude was crazy, and believed either 1) or 2). Or that he was one of those weird twins in white from the Matrix sequels with the ability to pass through solid objects. Come to think of it, that would be a bitchin' way to get free bus rides. Maybe he's not so crazy after all.

Then I cycled through the more reasonable explanations. Perhaps he was blind in one eye. Maybe he just wanted a fat legal settlement from the CTA for pain and suffering. But neither of those would make him want to leave the scene...

That's when it hit me. He was late for a date! What more perfect excuse to be late for a date than to say you got hit by a bus? Plus, it has added bonuses of :
  1. Showing how interested you are in this woman*****

  2. Making you look way tough

  3. Giving you a convenient out if the date doesn't go well******

That guy's a genius.

* No doubt worried that if he showed up back at the garage with a smashed windshield but no police report, people would ask questions
** A little more freaked-out than he probably should have been
*** Which was a little disappointing. I fear that the corporatization of Uno has finally resulted in the ruin of Uno's original recipe...(sigh). Looks like I'll have to check out Lou Malnatis, Giordanos, and Gino's East to see which one becomes my new standby when relatives are in town.
**** Either meth or pure, unadulterated RAGE! Grrr...
***** “Wow, he got hit by a bus and he was only 5 minutes late? That's devotion! I'm in love! I hope he doesn't bleed too much on my new top...”
****** “I'm sorry, I'm having a great time, but I think I'm about to pass out from all the cerebral hemmoraging. I'll call you later.”

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Intermission brain challenge!

For the last few days I've had houseguests in town visiting* - hence the lack of attention I've been paying to blogging. But I bundled them back into the car for the trip back to Iowa this afternoon, so in light of the fact that i was a little light today, I present...the brain scrambler!!!!

Pretty neat huh? I have to admit it took me a while to figure out how it works. Can *you* figure it out? I'll post the answer during lunch tomorrow in the comments. Yay fun!

* For example, apparently they saw a guy get hit by a CTA bus this afternoon on Michigan Ave, but I'll get to that story tomorrow, it's late and I'm sleepy.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Typically, I *like* the smell of banana

On my way back from Cleveland last Thursday I was walking through the underground portion that connects the three terminals to the Blue Line El train and the parking garage (picture at right taken at the peak area of stinkitude - note woman in yellow running for her life) when I noticed something different – O’Hare stinks.

By this, I meant not that flying through O’Hare stinks* but rather that the air itself was tinged with a weird, bizarre smell. The smell itself resembled men’s locker room coupled with just a hint of warm, mushed up banana. It was such an unusual smell that at first my nose didn’t even register that it smelled bad – it was like those times when someone sticks something in your face and says “Smell this!”. And even though it smells hideous, you can’t resist taking a second whiff just to let your brain analyze just how offensive the odor truly is.

The weird thing is that that portion of O’Hare doesn’t typically smell that bad. In fact, tit usually doesn’t smell at all. Maybe the mob moved Hoffa’s body somewhere under the people movers when the FBI tore up that farm in Michigan. Does anyone know if Hoffa died from overdosing on bananas? It sure would explain the smell...

* Although yes, frequently it does.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Quickie - OAM Reunion News Flash!

While perusing my alma mater’s website today* I noticed something that scared me and that will scare those of my readers who will be in attendance with me. Remember where our class was housed last time? That lovely little cottage on the hill? Well it seems that the other little dorm across the lake is now considered the crappiest of them all, because the tenth year class from this summer’s reunion was housed in "Hillside".

I pray to God this doesn’t mean we’ll** be in Hillside again next summer…

* To reply that I can’t be on the reunion planning committee this year due to guests coming the weekend of the planning session
** Full disclosure, I didn’t stay in Hillside for the 5 year. My late reservation meant that Hillside was full and I ended up being housed in “Pile of Crap On The Other Side of Campus Behind the Nice Dorms” with the 10 years – which is now apparently so bad that they didn’t house anyone in it for this summer’s reunion. Still, it sucked having to walk all the way across campus to attend events.

I almost considered sticking with my original flight, but she was seated 8 rows in front of me

There is almost nothing like being off work for two weeks* to completely mess up a guy's entire routine. I blogged about this before with regard to the state of my apartment, but mercifully my cleaning lady comes tomorrow and will hopefully put all in order. no, I'm talking about life in general. With the weird schedule my available time for even reading up on the blogroll has been limited. Trust that I'll get caught up over the weekend, at least until my cousins come out on Sunday.

Yes, it's the first of a string of weekend hosting or travel weekends, either guests in town** or family or traveling for fun weddings! Thank goodness I have a laptop now for road-blogging or I would have dropped of the face of the earth.

The trip back today was actually great. I managed to get an available seat on an earlier flight, so I got back home around 7:00 rather than the 8:30 I was originally scheduled for. My only concern was while waiting to board in the gate area, I was faced with the most annoying, self-centered drama queen woman ever.

Surrounded by 4-5 of her subjects, this woman was proceeding to very loudly give her "opinion" of just about every human being she worked with, most of them male, and essentially her opinion was that they took up valuable space and should be killed. It didn't matter whether the guy was some other woman's husband, or just some schmuck she worked with. Typically this would bother me so much but she was *so* loud about it one couldn't help but overhear everything she said. Eventually I had to run away to the airport bar just to escape from this harpy. I'm sure she didn't mind***.

I already miss my comfy bed.

* Well, practically. Excepting one day in the office on Monday and one today
** Who are oddly all coming into town on Sunday night and leaving in the middle of the week
*** Or even notice for that matter, since I was trying very hard to ignore her and therefore wouldn't register on her "people paying attention to me" meter.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Quickie - Wanna get high?

This is totally cool and fun. All the hallucinations of acid* but none of the expense or broken family life!

* Or, alternatively, the spins - depending on your poison.

Good times, old friends, and bumbling asistants

We had day 1 of the road show yesterday and it went pretty well. Although I felt a little guilty because I spent a good chunk of time being pulled aside by friends of mine when I worked here to chat and catch up - leaving my partner* to do a little more than his share of presentations. Still, it was terribly nice to see everyone again.

Right after lunch through, the entertainment consisted of some manager pulling a guy into the conference rooms directly across from the show booths and giving what was obviously a review that wasn't terribly complimentary. So my team and the team from the LA branch were essentially forced to watch as the manager raked this kid over the coals. I felt so bad for him - there are floor-to-ceiling windows in the rooms and while I understand the need to give evaluations on time, sheesh.

Then, after the day was over we all went out to dinner. It was any servers nightmare - about 30 hungry people slowly progressing from reasonable professionals to tipsy folks to drunk-n-rowdy yellers over the course of four hours**. And in typical fashion we had been sequestered in a room to ourselves and assigned our own server. Despite the work that events for my company entail, servers typically do very well for themselves by the end of it in terms of a tip. Our private server*** managed the group very well, but he had an assistant - a younger gentleman who wasn't quite as good as his job as she was. Part of the dinner entertainment was waiting for the assistant to make a mistake and quickly look over at the server who would glare at the offender with looks obviously intended to kill him****.

By the time we reached tipsy folks stage, I was full of filet mignon and chocolate brownie sundae so we took off. Besides, it was my last night in my swanky room, and I wanted to take maximum advantage of my super comfy bed.

Goodbye swanky room - I'll miss you!

* Who hasn't ever worked here.
** Typically I take my leave by the second stage.
*** "Our server for money..."
**** Or smite, at a minimum.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I'm being watched!

The hotel room where I'm staying during my time here in Cleveland is quite possibly the nicest hotel room I have ever stayed in. It's about 1000+ square feet with 1.5 bathrooms*, a breakfast nook, main living area, and a bed large enough to land carrier aircraft on that is also pretty darn comfortable.

All told, this sounds like a pretty good deal. Indeed - I sent a breathless email to the GF yesterday afternoon describing all the amenities. But after half a day here I can safely assess some aspects of this sort of lifestyle that are not as cool as one would think. For example, almost everything is controlled from the bedside telephone: including the lights, the thermostat, the TV or music**, the fireplace (in winter), etc. The telephone also acts as the alarm clock, but the alarm itself seems to be designed to be the most annoying tone created by man. It actually caused me physical pain to wake up this morning. Now, that may be the point, but still...ow.

The other thing that is a little creepy is that the room itself seems to be reading my mind. Just last night as I was falling asleep I was sort of annoyed that there wasn't a radio I could wake up to. Typically, my need for an NPR fix is strongest when I wake - but without a clock radio it wasn't going to happen. So after being yanked from slumber by the torture phone/alarm I turned on the TV from the phone - but instead of the TV turning on, suddenly I heard the familiar tones of Morning Edition wafting from the speakers.

A pleasant surprise, yes - but also a little frightening. Sort of like the motion detector in my room that no doubt tells management when I'm not there and they can send folks to do maid service or turn down the bed.

Also, no promised-for free muffin this morning. All work today and no breakfast might make Grrrbear a cranky boy.

* The one of which is larger than my living room back home, with a tub large enough to do laps in.
** Which is piped into every room, thus allowing you to listen to the TV show that is on in either the bedroom or any of the bathrooms, too.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Sieze all their cheesecake!

Fourth of July weekend means only one thing to those three million-or-so residents who live in Chicago full-time - the Taste is coming. Sadly, because of all the "events" of the past week, I missed this year's Taste completeyl for the first time since I came back to Chi-town in 2002.

Up until I left for the funeral, though, I had been asking around my friends to try and find someone to come down for dinner - but with no success. In any other society or time the thousands of people flooding grant park would be called barbarians and their ravaging of our foodstores would be described as "pillaging". But now we call them "tourists" or "from the suburbs" and describe their actions as "economic stimuli".

It makes one wonder whether coastal villiages in the middle ages might have turned plundering Viking raiders into an economic gold mine by simply setting up tents along their main street and offering herring, porridge, and thick-crusted bread from the best merchants in the village in exchanged for overpriced tickets.

Anyway, because of the hordes of people that typically attend* I wasn't able to get anyone to go with me before I left. Oh well, I probably would have been kidnapped and hauled back to the longboats anyway - maybe it was for the best.

Plus, there's always next year!

* Read: Push around their Stroller-Utility-Vehicles full of shrieking toddlers in a desperate search for the Eli's Cheesecake tent

Monday, July 10, 2006

Nobody is allowed over to my house right now

After ten days off work I have returned to work with my life in some level of disarray. There is something about taking this much time off of a regular routine that has transformed my typically organized condo into a state not seen since the “I'll play Legos and Star Wars whenever and wherever I want over a period of several weeks until I forget what I was playing” phase of my elementary school years. In those days, the only requirement about my room was that there be a clear path between my bed and the door so my parents could come in and wake me up in the morning. The rest of my room would slowly fill with young-boy entertainment detritus until my room was ankle-deep in toys and junk – not unlike the trash compactor scene in Star Wars*.

After returning from the funeral on Saturday, I managed to avoid this problem my staying at the GF's house – but I had to come home eventually to face the problem of desperately needing to organize myself tonight. It needs to be done tonight because I leave for Cleveland on Tuesday morning and fear that if left to its own devices, the mess in my place will achieve sentience and overthrow the established order when I get back Thursday evening. And besides, my cleaning lady is coming Friday morning and I don't want her to think I've suddenly developed an affinity for the Pig-Pen lifestyle.

My time in Cleveland will probably be pretty uneventful. There reportedly hasn't been that much that has changed since I moved away five years ago, and on top of that I'm staying in a totally cushy hotel about a mile away from where I'll be working**. If I'm lucky, it'll have free wireless so I'll still have 'net access and blogging ability. If I'm not then I'll just post everything when I get back on Friday night.

* Except without the unidentified liquid and bug-eyed, tentacled monster capable of hiding under only 4 inches of water
** The big project for work I was working on in May? Yeah – now we're taking it on the road and it's my turn to present to our Cleveland branch

Friday, July 07, 2006

Greetings from Iowa!

I'm writing this from my Aunt's basement guest room where I have found myself in the midst of family drama. Long story short my week-o-vaca has been detoured by the passing of a great-aunt of mine. While I cannot say that we were close, she was one of my favorite distant relatives. She was one of those relatives who are old for your entire life – the ones that you cannot imagine not wearing costume jewelry and floral print dresses. I only found out yesterday because I happened to be talking to my aunt about coming out for a visit for a few days – and now that few days has been lengthened somewhat into at least through the funeral on Saturday.

The worst thing about it is not dealing with death – it was the commute out of the city. True to form, I ended up taking longer than I expected to pack and take care of business around the house before I left. Typically, this is just a monir annoyance but the difference between leaving at 3 and leaving at 4 takes on a whole new level of important when trying to leave Chicago – it's the difference between just missing rush hour and getting mired in the thick of it for an hour and half. Needless to say, this will never be happening again.

Once I got on the road* traffic was pretty light and the road construction minimal. I made it easy on myself this trip by stopping to pick up one of the I-Pass transponders for paying tolls without stopping before I left. Heretofore I had always pooh-poohed them as the trappings of suburban living, as everyone I know who lives in the 'burbs owns one. But eventually I realized that if I had one then I'd only pay half what I had been paying in tolls – which can add up to a pretty penny driving all the way out to Iowa. It worked pretty well too – and since it fits entirely behind my rear-view mirror, I can just ignore it and pretend that I don't own one and therefore I'm still thwarting the suburban establishment.

The rest of the drive was uneventful, except for this one part where I was passing through some road construction. In the last few years there have been multiple instances of road workers being hit by negligant or drunk drivers while on the job. These accidents get a lot of publicity, and there was even a new law passed ramping up penalties for hitting a worker on the job**. I've always felt really sorry for said workers in these instances – until today.

As I was driving through the work*** I saw this one worker literally walking into my lane, holding his hand out in a trying-to-signal-something-but-not-being-specific-enough-to-have-any-clear-meaning sort of way. I was so confused – obviously he wanted me to do something, parading out into traffic like that, but what? Was my driving at 5 miles per hour less than the posted speed not slow enough for him? Was he suicidal and trying to end it all before thinking of the children and veering back behind the traffic cones? Was there something wrong with one of my tires? It was all terribly confusing, and frankly pretty damned irritating. Then I wondered how many of those aforementioned accidents were just workers being idiots and wandering into traffic when their ham sandwich got blown out of their hand by the wind or when the voices from the booze told them that real life frogger was waaaaaaayyyyy more fun than any ol' video game.

Suddenly, I felt not so sorry for the construction workers who got hit. If they were like this guy, that is.

* And – more importantly – beyond the suburbs
** Presumably, hitting a road worker anywhere else just gets you the same old, same old...
*** At below the posted “construction zone speed limit” mind you

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Shopped 'til I dropped

For the GF's birthday on Sunday I took her out to a big flea market in a little town west of the city. Well..."big" is an understatement - this thing was the size and scope of the entire economy of Trinidad. Building after building chock full of vintage costume jewelry, old records, antique everythings, and various knick-knacks and crafty things carved out of wood and molded out of soybean wax with unusual scents like "cake" and "bee farts"*.

For a veteran garage sale/thrift shop junkie like the GF - this was pretty much the greatest shopping experience ever. She bounced from booth to tent to shed, tunnelling through the crap to find some real gems - not unlike Scrooge MacDuck swimming through his money bin. She found some neat vinyl albums**, a hair scarf***, and a Bakelite Bracelet. Even I got into the act, walking away with a birthday/Hannukah gift for My Friend and his Crazy New York Show. But even with spending wbout 3 hours there, we didn't cover even a third of all the vendors - so I think we'll have to head back out there, perhaps the next time my mom is in town.

But the birthday extravaganza wasn't finished! After getting some dinner and picking up some new shoes at Famous Footwear, we went to Marshall's. This was fun for her because my summer wardrobe is still fairly offensive to anyone with any fashion sense. The GF took it as her personal mission to rectify this situation. So we managed to pick up a few casual shirts for me and when we got back to my place afterwards she tore into my closet like a vengeful barbarian horde - winnowing out 9-year old polo shirts and pretty much my entire Eddie Bauer collection. It wasn't pretty, but then again - neither were the shirts.

* It smelled like honey which was pretty funny, actually
** But she was strong enough to walk away from the "Colonel Sanders Christmas Album"
*** She got her hair trimmed short for the summer, and only believes she can wear hair scarf-stuff with short hair. she was so excited to see the bowl-o-scarves, I thought she was going to dive in.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

What a weekend...

On Saturday, the GF took me out to a concert featuring Peaches, Bauhaus, and Nine Inch Nails at an outdoor venue in the south suburbs. I've seen Nine Inch Nails before, but Peaches and Bauhaus were also really good. In general it was an excellent concert, made even better by the fact that the GF figured out a back way to get out - so we were able to get back to our car and out of the parking lot before most of the other folks had figured out how to get out. I was in *awe* - just when I finally think I have a pretty good picture of all the cool things she can do, she pulls out this heretofore secret inner Lewis & Clark navigation ability. It was cool.

The best part of any show featuring these groups these days however is the people watching. Sure, there was a representative sample of the Goth kids in all their overly-eyelinered glory, but increasingly there are also increasing numbers of frat boys and their trixie girlfriends - lured from their homes in Lincoln Park and the 'burbs by memories of doing kegstands to "Closer". While I respect their enthusiasm, they usually don't quite understand the fundamentals of rock concert etiquette.

Two excellent examples of this were sitting a few rows down from us. Guy on the right regularly raised his fists to acknowledge how much Trent Reznor rocked - but except with the usual "devil horn" rock sign, he kept using the "Richard Dawson I-Love-You at the end of Family Feud" sign. His buddy on the left spent most of the concert using his hands to give Trent the bird(s). And honestly, what better way to express your admiration and appreciation for an artist than by flicking him off for most of the show!?

We felt a little better knowing that most of the Chads and Trixies had been suckered into paying $12 for a margarita "yard" that really contained about a foot of actual liquor - slightly less than what was in the $8 "regular" size. And we both felt a lot better watching the free condom samples* being blown up and bounced around among the crowd. Apparently they weren't allowing beach balls in at the gate. Just goes to show that you can't keep American ingenuity down!

** That people dressed as Trojan Man were handing out more or less everywhere you went.